ST. ALBANS CITY — The Franklin County Criminal Court’s fourth attempt to try the State’s case against Norm McAllister anticlimactically ended Friday with a mistrial.
One of the 12 jurors told the court they overheard TV news coverage of the case, including the history of the State’s case against McAllister, Thursday night, resulting in the removal of that juror from the panel.
The problem then was that the court had already excused the two alternate jurors prior to the start of deliberation the prior afternoon.
The court went through the trouble of recalling those alternates. Judge Michael Kupersmith said he hoped one could replace the lost juror, and deliberation could continue.
But the case’s attorneys, defense attorney Bob Katims and prosecutor John Lavoie, agreed Vermont court rules prohibited that, and, with both attorneys in rare agreement, Kupersmith relented.
He gave prosecutors 45 days to determine if the State will retry the case — which would be the third time this one charge alone has been tried.
The charge is that McAllister procured a woman, a tenant and farmhand on his property, for prostitution — specifically, an arrangement that the woman have sex with a friend of McAllister’s to reimburse McAllister for back-due housing costs.
The woman testified Thursday that she never saw money exchanged, but that McAllister told her the man directly paid him.
Lavoie focused his questioning on establishing why the woman would agree to such a scheme. She testified that she was desperate not to lose her housing, that she had already lost custody of her children and was caught in the “loop” of an unhealthy “domestic situation” with her ex-husband.
Katims focused his questions on eroding the woman’s credibility. He told the jury the woman would do anything for her ex-husband, including blaming the alleged sexual encounter on McAllister.
He repeatedly questioned the witness about statements she made to police in 2012 that resulted in her ex’s arrest for domestic assault. The witness told police he pushed her and bruised their baby, but testified during the resulting trial she had made false statements to have the man removed from their house.
A jury convicted McAllister of this charge, a misdemeanor charge of prohibited acts, in July 2017. The same jury found McAllister not guilty of another misdemeanor prohibited acts charge and a felony charge of sexual assault.
But the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the court erred in certain decisions during that trial, resulting in an order to retry McAllister on the lone charge of which he was convicted.
Hence Thursday’s trial.
Kupersmith declared the proceedings a mistrial around 10:30 a.m. Friday.
McAllister faces one year or a $100 fine if convicted of the prohibited acts charge, but he already completed the provisions of his prior sentencing for the charge, one year’s probation plus a psychosexual evaluation.
The lone component of that sentence McAllister hasn’t completed is 25 days on a work crew.
The mistrial declaration was the latest in a constant stream of complications throughout the State’s case, beginning with the natural death of one of the case’s three lead witnesses, and subsequently including the separation of the remaining case into two separate cases, the perjuring of one case’s lead witness, resulting in the dismissal of the corresponding charges, a plea agreement that McAllister later exercised his legal right to withdraw and then the Supreme Court ruling.
Police arrested McAllister in May 2015.
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